Houlton Knights win AFL title for second straight year

14 years ago

On Saturday in their final game of the season, the Houlton Knights dubbed the “boys of autumn” routed the visiting Madawaska Mustangs, 58-13, on their quest for a perfect record (8-0) for the second consecutive year, as well as their second straight AFL title.
The week before, the Knights claimed the Aroostook Football League championship with a 61-0 shutout over Milo.
    At home, it was “Senior Game” celebrated with tradition. Before the game, senior players presented their parents and family with emotional hugs and roses. At the ceremonial coin toss, Knights’ administrator Liesa DeVoe accompanied the team captains to midfield as part of the football custom.
There was a theatrical atmosphere, as music blared from the speakers courtesy of Tim Humphrey.
Played on an overcast November day — some say “real football” weather — field conditions were muddy.
“There was a theatrical atmosphere to be sure,” said Knight assistant Andy Hay.
Hay was referring to music playing out the speakers provided by Humphrey, local media coverage, TV interviews, along with Steve Martin announcing rosters and play-by-play action, as well as the cheers of the fans.
Knights head coach Brian Reynolds endured the hoopla in stoic fashion. Before the game, he put his team through their routine and told them, “Play clean, play hard, make no mistakes. It’s all business today, boys.”
Junior tailback Aaron Eastman took Reynolds’ words quite literal, as he brought the fans to life with an electrifying opening kickoff return of 65 yards for a touchdown in the first 10 seconds of the game. It was only the beginning of high-octane Knights’ play.
Most of the game was a senior display of offense and defense, except for the outstanding play of junior quarterback Quinn Harris and Reynolds’ veteran underclassmen.
On the Knights’ second touchdown, full back Mike Ring rumbled in from the 20-yard line and then Harris connected with senior Eddie Flint for the extra point conversion. In a bit of razzle-dazzle, Flint took the handoff and drilled a 21-yard scoring strike back to Harris.
Flint then picked off an errant Mustang pass at the 37-yard line and ran it back untouched for the fourth score of the first stanza. Caleb Black was only warming up, as he converted the extra point on a run to the right for a 26-0 Knights’ lead.
In the second quarter, Ring reached pay dirt from 12 yards out and Harris once again found Flint uncovered for the extra point. Black, a senior speedster, kicked it up a notch and flew into the end zone from the 38-yard line to give the Knights a 39-0 advantage.
The second half would start much like the first half ended. Harris passed to Flint for a gain of 23 yards, setting up Black for half of his phenomenal scoring production. Black took the handoff, ran for 14 yards for his second touchdown of the game. Black’s familiar number 29 was called on again in the next series, and he scored his third touchdown from seven yards out.
The Mustangs were desperate, passing the ball 22 times during the game and connecting only four times. One pass found an open receiver for a 50-yard touchdown, making the score 51-6.
In the last quarter, the Mustangs scored again on a 10-yard pass and converted the extra point. With the game winding down, Black put an exclamation point on his remarkable performance, bulling in from the one-yard line. Black ended the day with 102 yards on 16 carries, four touchdowns and a conversion. In fitting fashion, Harris passed to senior captain and tailback Flint for the final point of the 2010 season.
The Knights seniors dominated defensively, as well. Flint had four tackles and a big interception return for a score. Ring on his aggressive play had five put downs. Tim Chase, Dan Coville, Josh McNinch and Joey Gould pitched in with numerous assists and tackles. Harris, playing cornerback, picked off two passes, too.
The big defensive story, according to Hay, was senior Brian Tuttle.
“Playing like a man possessed, he was everywhere and matched his jersey number with 13 tackles, most of them for Mustang yardage losses,” Hay said. “Brian and I could only look at each other and shake our heads at the incredible play.”
The Knights held the Mustangs to 182 total yards on 52 plays. The Houlton seniors accounted for 38 points, rushing for 200 yards, of the 250 gained on the ground. They figured in all the pass scoring — 14 points — via 53 yards through the air.
After the game, the celebration began as players took off their game faces and helmets, beaming with smiles.
Black, a tri-captain, was overcome in the bittersweet moment. Captains Flint and Harris flashed their familiar enigmatic grins, said Hay, as “We are the Champions” blasted from the field speakers. A jubilant crowd rushed onto the field as part of the victory festivities.
The water cooler was dumped on coach Reynolds and the trophy presentation was all ad lib, as cameras flashed in tribute to the local champions.
A soaked Reynolds stood back and smiled at his team’s accomplishment. In a rare emotional moment, he said, “We are building a football tradition in Houlton. This team has made it happen.”
“I love them and I’m going to miss these kids … no, these men,” Reynolds said acknowledging his seniors.
Looking back over the season, Hay said, “The dream that the 2010 Houlton varsity Knights would emerge as a sport’s team legend and one of the best that Houlton had to offer was in their grasp, now becomes fact. This was quite a ride, but it was worth every minute.”
Concurring was line coach John Smith.
“I’ve had a lot of fun this year,” he added. “These seniors will be hard to replace. I’m going to miss them. We have a lot of work to do to get ready for next year.”
The Bob Ruth Field is empty now, awaiting the passing of winter and the blooming of spring and the local nine boys of summer to arrive. The outfield portion on which Saturday’s contest was played will heal to its lush greenness, but the memories of Nov. 6 on that field will be relived by those who were there.
“It will take a while for all of this to sink in,” said Knight assistant coach Richard Cleary. “It’s been a long season. I’m proud of this team. The whole community has been so supportive of this program.”
Years from now, a memory may rush back … Flint, Black, Ring, Tuttle, Coville, Chase, McNinch and Gould … that was a team.
The Houlton Knights will be attending the year-end banquet for the Aroostook Football League on Saturday, Nov. 13.